Sleep apnea and weight gain are two health issues that often go hand in hand, but which comes first? Does weight gain cause sleep apnea, or does sleep apnea cause weight gain? The answer to this proverbial chicken-and-egg question is complicated. Keep reading to learn more about the relationship between weight gain and sleep apnea in Topeka and how changing your habits can improve your sleep and weight management.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by repeated breathing interruptions while one sleeps. These brief pauses can last 10 seconds or longer and may occur hundreds of times each night. The most common form of the disorder, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), occurs when a person’s neck tissue relaxes and blocks airflow. Sleep apnea can contribute to serious health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, obesity, diabetes, and more if left untreated.
How Excess Weight Causes Sleep Apnea
According to the American Diabetes Association, a whopping 60% to 90% of adults with obstructive sleep apnea are overweight. Obesity can contribute to sleep apnea in a couple of different ways. First, excess weight creates fat deposits in a person’s neck, which can block the airway during sleep when the neck muscles are already relaxed. In addition, an overweight person’s large midsection may compress their chest wall, decreasing lung volume. With reduced lung capacity, a person’s airflow also diminishes, making their upper airway more likely to collapse during sleep. According to a journal published by the American Medical Association, even just a 10% weight gain is associated with a six-fold increase in obstructive sleep apnea risk.
Can Sleep Apnea Cause Weight Gain?
While excess weight is a known risk factor for sleep apnea, new research suggests that the relationship also works in the opposite direction. In fact, one study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that people with obstructive sleep apnea gained significantly more weight (around 16 pounds) in the year leading up to their diagnosis than people without OSA. One reason for this may be the fact that sleep deprivation can affect the hormones that control appetite. As a result, exhausted individuals with sleep apnea may end up overeating. In addition, a person who is always tired during the day will likely have less energy to exercise and maintain healthy body weight.
Can Losing Weight Cure Sleep Apnea?
If you suffer from sleep apnea symptoms and are overweight, making some lifestyle and behavioral changes may help. Increasing your daily physical activity and eating a healthy, balanced diet may help you lose a few pounds and improve the quality of your sleep. Weight loss of just 10% to 15% can reduce the severity of sleep apnea by 50% in moderately obese patients.
However, some patients also need professional treatment in combination with diet and exercise. Oral appliance therapy, which utilizes a custom mouthpiece to prevent airway blockages at night, is an effective way to combat sleep apnea. Ask your dentist for more details!
About the Author
Dr. Michael Michel has over 40 years of experience helping patients overcome sleep apnea. He is passionate about dental sleep medicine and has pursued advanced training and continuing education in the specialty for decades. To learn more about the connection between weight gain and sleep apnea in Topeka, visit the Sleep Solutions by Michel Dental website or call 785-273-0802.